You, Me & Them, Series 1
Written and created by Steve Turner
Available streaming on Acorn.TV
A sitcom has two primary jobs in terms of becoming a success: to build a world viewers will want to continue spending time in, and to make them laugh. The former is perhaps the more daunting task, but both are nebulous, hard to measure, and difficult to figure out in advance. British television is often vaunted as superior to its American counterpart, but if American TV has one advantage, it is that the increased episode orders on network television give American sitcoms time to find themselves in their first season. You, Me & Them, the new sitcom from writer/creator Steve Turner, does a decent job at building out a world and cast of characters worth spending time with, but in its six-episode first season, it all too often forgets to be funny.
The show follows the May-December romance of Lauren (Eve Myles of Torchwood fame), an aspiring veterinary assistant, and Ed (Anthony Head, best known as Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), a wealthy business-owner and grandfather. When the series begins, the two have just moved in together, which means their relationship is tested by family members on both sides, from Ed’s insane, possessive ex-wife Lydia (Lindsay Duncan), grandson Tim (Joshua McGuire), and live-in brother Alan (Nigel Betts), to Lauren’s parents Emma (Susie Blake) and Clive (Jeff Rawle), her sister Debs (Daisey Beaumont), Debs’ husband Keith (Marcus Garvey), and their children Charlie (Miller Henderson) and Ellie (Alice Felgate). The show manages to pack this improbably large brood into every episode, even if some would work better with fewer threads, as they generally interrupt Ed and Lauren’s otherwise peaceful life.
You, Me & Them has huge assets in its leads. Myles and Head are marvelous talents and they have great chemistry together. Many of the show’s best moments feature the two of them simply bantering with each other or hanging out before the plot arrives in the form of various familial nuisances. The simple prospect of having both of these two on television regularly is enough reason to root for a second series here, though the show still leaves much to be desired. The rest of the cast is a bit of a mixed bag (Duncan, in particular, is generally played as too crazy to be kept around as much as she is, though she grows into the role over the course of the season), but the weaknesses of the series have little to do with the performances, which range from very good to passable.
The real issue here is the writing. Turner writes all six episodes in the first series, and what he comes up with is more accurately described as gently humorous than actually outright funny. Various farcical plotlines you’ve seen a million times before (Alan goes on a date and has to be in two places at once, one character’s pregnancy scare is mistaken for another’s, various characters are mistaken for people they are not) are wheeled out yet again, and then mostly just lie there rather than producing laughs. You, Me & Them is rarely boring, its just never particularly funny or interesting. It’s a harmless little show full of likable performances and able to pull the occasional chuckle out of viewers, but it never really rises above that. It’s more a warm cup of tea than anything else; charming in places, slowly ingratiating, but never hilarious or all that memorable.
This is not a bad sitcom and in fact, given time to grow, it might become a very good one. The cast is here and they are definitely game, even when handed some pretty weak material (there is a shocking amount of weird, flailing comedic dancing here, usually the sign of an under-written sitcom). There is evidence, from time to time, that a more adventurous form of comedy might be lurking around the edges of the show, that it might develop a viewpoint beyond just “here is something inoffensive to look at for a half hour.” And by the end of this first season, the characters have become at least endearing, to the point where, should a second season emerge, it would probably be worth checking in on. What You, Me & Them lacks is laughs. Inoffensive, harmless, and gently humorous are not exactly the finest terms to describe a new comedy, but nor are they the worst. There is good material lurking beneath the surface of this show, a good cast that could do much more, and enough good will built up over its short run that it may get a chance to prove itself. The show has a long way to go before it is great television, but there are worse ways to pass the time.